“It’s terribly romantic and full of metaphor — creating something from nothing, only to destroy it at the end of the night or pack it all away again for next time,” says Jaclyn Atkinson, one of a loose and changing group of conspirators who are known, en masse, as Those Who Choose the Time and Place. Though each truck is self-contained, its proprietors responsible for everything from rental to decoration to cleanup, Those Who Choose do just that: find the perfect location and determine when each gathering will occur. They also corral the proprietors and work out some logistics, like who will share generators and whether teams can help each other build and transport their little worlds.
“Every installation comes from the mind of a different artist, allowing participants to traverse many realities in a single night,” Atkinson says. “The only real rule is participation from the audience, and that nothing may be bought or sold.” Over the years, trucks have held everything from game shows to dance parties, from glitter makeup parlors to fog-filled space capsules, from a boxing ring to a hot tub. “This is about taking that weird thing, that idea that has been kicking around in the back of your head, and making it into a reality,” Atkinson says.
The most recent Night Market was a two-night escapade between Brooklyn and Philadelphia: the Lost Bridge Exchange. New Yorkers loaded their props, costumes, and materials into a “mother truck” and headed to Philly for the weekend, and two weeks later, the same thing happened in reverse. The Philadelphia evening saw a bevy of intricate truck universes. There was the serene Mesopotamian Vibes, an opulent tea parlor with a long, low table full of warm tea in tiny cups surrounded by carpet-draped walls, and the wondrous Bangarang and Archedream for Humankind, which featured a silent puppet show starring black-lit puppets. There was the Devil’s Nachoria, filled with handmade machines delivering various ingredients onto a messy plate, staffed by devils taunting attendees when they couldn’t master the machines. And there was the perennial, popular Smash Truck, where participants could don protective goggles, step behind a thick plexiglass wall, and take a baseball bat to broken electronics, fruits and vegetables, and plastic toys, while a soundtrack of punk and thrash music blasted.